Rural Area (RA) Comprehensive Plan Implementation



Review alternatives for advancing RA implementation priorities for mandatory RPD/clustering.



Messrs.: Tucker, Foley, Graham, Cilimberg, Benish





July 6, 2005


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On March 2, 2005, the Board reviewed the major steps needed to implement the strategies contained in the RA Plan.  The initial implementation discussion included the review of key implementation categories (Attachment A of the Attached March 2, 2005, Executive Summary).  In summary, the recommended schedule for RA implementation in March was as follows:


·    Phasing of Development (time release) – April 2005 – April 2006 (to Planning Commission)

·    Mandatory Rural Preservation Developments – April 2006 – April 2007 (to Planning Commission)

·    Dedicated and Increased Funding for ACE – Board funds in FY 2006-07

·    Create RA Support Program Position – Board funds in FY 2006-07

·    Crossroads Communities/Alternative Uses in RA – April 2007- April 2009 (to Planning Commission)

·    Review of Use Value Taxation Program – TBD

·    Pursue Voluntary Donation of Conservation Easements – Somewhat underway

·    Track and Monitor Conservation Easements – Begin July, 2005

·    Rural Rustic Roads as Alternative – Underway

·    Research TDR Programs and Support TDR Legislation – Next General Assembly

·    Implement Mountain Overlay District – Consideration underway

·    Amend Code for Tours of National and State Registered Historic Sites/Buildings – Consideration underway


This schedule was developed to reflect the expected timeframes to undertake each item in consideration of level of staffing, the expected scope of work on each item and other work program expectations over the coming four years.  Major projects the Rural Area Planning staff will be working on over the next year are listed below (some of these are underway now):

-begin work on mandatory RPD/clustering ZTA in 3rd quarter of FY 06;

-preparation of FY07 budget submittal information for increased ACE funding and RA Support (must be prepared in 2nd quarter of FY06);

-development review projects (primarily Special Use Permits) and ACSA JA amendment requests;

-staffing of Public Recreation Facilities Authority, Ag/Forest District Advisory Committee, ACE Committee and the Natural Heritage Committee (once established), including continued development of natural heritage database.


At its March 2nd meeting, the Board expressed concern over the length of time needed to complete implementation of the zoning text amendments, particularly the mandatory RPD’s/clustering (the second of two priorities for implementation).  The Board requested that staff provide further information on alternative means to expedite the text amendments.




Goal 2.1:  Protect and/or preserve the County's rural character.

Goal 2.2:  Protect and/or preserve the County's natural resources.




The recommended approach to implementing the ordinance amendments is to work on the highest priority, text amendments for phasing, first. Once the text amendments for phasing are substantially complete, staff would then begin work on the mandatory RPD/clustering text amendments.  Staff is now in the early stages of working on the phasing text amendment. 


To address the Board’s interest in expediting the ZTA process for the mandatory RPD/clustering provisions, it will require either augmenting current staff resources or a much-abbreviated public involvement process. There are three common approaches to augmenting resources: 1) contract for consultant services to provide particular deliverables; 2) contract for additional staff on a temporary basis specifically to complete the text amendments; or 3) hire additional full-time staff which would require funding a new position within Community Development. 


Of these approaches, staff opinion is that the better alternative(s) are to augment staff through either Options 1 or 2.  Option 3 (new permanent staff) does not seem justified for the zoning ordinance amendment work which is a specific task. 

Staff believes the mandatory RPD / clustering text amendment will likely be controversial and require a lengthy public process for concerns to be raised and addressed.  Assuming staff follows the typical processes of public involvement, the additional resources allow work to start sooner, but those resources will not appreciably shorten the time spent on the effort.  Staff anticipates the ordinance change will still take up to 12 months to get to the Planning Commission even with these additional resources.  The primary benefit of the additional resources will be in the ability to begin work on the text amendments sooner than anticipated with existing staff.  With the additional resources described above, and the expected scope of the work, staff anticipates being able to begin work on the clustering provisions within the next 3 to 6 months, depending on how quickly funding is made available and how quick/successful the procurement or hiring process is; therefore, a fairly conservative estimate of the time savings from staff’s original schedule is approximately 6 months, allowing for delivery to the Planning Commission by October, 2006.


Alternatively, if the Board supports staff bringing forward an ordinance amendment by relying on similar ordinances found in other localities and without the standard ZTA public involvement process at the staff level (multiple focused roundtables), the delivery time can be reduced to months. Using the above estimate of 3 to 6 months to have the resources in place, it could be possible to have Planning Commission worksessions on the ordinance amendment by late 2005 or early 2006 in that situation.  However, if staff is correct in anticipating this will be a controversial proposal, that shortened delivery time might not result in an appreciable quicker time to adoption and could result in antagonizing groups of citizens though the lack of public involvement.       


As noted above, staff has based its timeframe estimates, in part, on an anticipated scope of work.  However, the Board may benefit from seeing staff’s proposed amendment focus points before committing additional resources to this work.  It may be that the Board would provide different direction to staff that could change the timeframe necessary to undertake the work.  (The Planning Commission could also be invited to participate in providing feedback and guidance.)  As an example, one option that could shorten the timeline would be to exclude family divisions from phasing requirements.  However, if there is no concurrent amendment to the ordinance that would lengthen the time that properties subdivided by family division must stay within the family, the Board may believe that abuse of family divisions could be a consequence.  Also having to address family divisions would not allow the timeline to be shortened. 


The Board may also benefit if staff were to provide more information related to the impact of the phasing ordinance on the upcoming clustering ordinance provisions.  This would help articulate issues and impacts of undertaking the development of the ordinances separately or together. 




It is estimated that a minimum of $60,000 will be needed if additional temporary staff support/consultant is hired to expedite this project.  That cost anticipates a senior planner equivalent working ½  time on the project for 12 months, then passing the work to existing staff as the phasing text amendment is completed.  The cost of using consultant services is anticipated to be roughly 1 ½ times the cost of permanent staff and this estimate also allows for incidental expenses.  If the project proves to be more controversial than anticipated and / or additional resources are needed for administrative support and legal assistance, the cost estimate could double to $120,000.  The recent subdivision text amendment effort demonstrates how difficult it can be to estimate the time and resources for a controversial ordinance amendment.  




Staff recommends that the Board delay making a decision on commitment of resources until it has received further information from staff in September regarding the scope and impact of the amendment work.  Staff also recommends that the Board consider inviting the Planning Commission to this presentation to assist in providing feedback and guidance.  


If the Board still desires to advance the mandatory RPD/clustering zoning ordinance amendment as quickly as possible, staff recommends that the Board approve up to $120,000 in funding for the procurement or hiring of additional resources.  




Attachment 1 -- March 2, 2005 Executive Summary
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